Book Review

Book Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance
Length: 480 pages
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

CLOSED THE BOOK WITH TEARS IN MY EYES.

Y’all. When I first read the synopsis I thought it was a bit curious to combine Greek mythology with World War 1. I have heard good things about this book and decided to give it a shot, IT WAS AMAZING. SERIOUSLY.

The writing was absolutely beautiful. This had some insta-love that we all know I’m weary of. This is one of those times when it worked out flawlessly. The writing really captured my soul and it had me cheering on both of these couples through their trials.

Hazel and James were my precious broken souls. Oh how I love them. I was most involved in their story and was wrapped up in the nuances of the few chance meetings they got over the months while James was in the trenches of France. Lovely War showed a lot about the human condition. Struggling with having to kill others, PTSD, explosions, loss of friends and family. I felt the atrocities of war brought to an awful light.

Aubrey and Coletter were a wonderful relationship to watch flourish too. As an inter-racial couple in this time period the amount of awful things they had to deal with just to be together makes my stomach turn. They both had the hope and fight to be with one another and I begged for them to get a happy ending.

The narration of the story by the gods (mostly Aphrodite) was definitely unique. Thought it was a bit odd at first, but the deeper I got into the story, the more it all made sense. Bringing in Ares, Apollo and Hades brought new point of views. By the end their was an even bigger love story between Aphrodite and Hephaestus. I thought this played out beautifully and connected all the dots in the end.

One of my favorite tidbits was that it’s mostly set in World War 1. I’m always looking for different historical fiction books set in time periods I don’t normally read about.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: a few words
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: war, physical, guns, see trigger warnings for more
  • Trigger warnings: racism, hate crime, PTSD, sexual assault (unwanted grab and kissing), descriptions of the trenches and battle scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: DEV1AT3 (Lifelike #2) by Jay Kristoff

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult science fiction
Length: 419 pages
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Expected Release Date: June 25th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Lemon Fresh has seen better days.

After the climactic battle in Babel, she finds herself separated from Ezekiel and Cricket in the wastelands. Lemon’s abilities to manipulate electricity mark her as a deviate, and deadly corporate operatives are hunting her to use as a weapon in the war between BioMaas Incorporated and Daedelus Technologies. Instead, Lemon finds herself falling in with a group of fellow deviates—a band of teenagers with astonishing abilities, led by an enigmatic figure known as the Major, who may hold the secrets to Lemon’s past.

Meanwhile, Cricket finds himself in possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a head-on collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with his beloved Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world. 

I LOVE LEMON FRESH.

And I love that this book focused more on her.

This book started out with a nice little refresher of who was who and what happened (which I appreciate because lets face it, when it takes awhile to get to the second book some facts slip my mind).

So many twists yet again. I couldn’t keep up and was on my toes waiting for the next moment when I would stare at my page saying whaaaaat, nooooooo. I was kept guessing as to who some characters were and where others were located. I love the mystery of it all and it really helps me want to continue reading and flipping pages.

Lemon Fresh got a lot of the spotlight this time and she’s seriously, the best. I love her spunky personality and her loyalty to her friends. We got to see her struggles and her triumphs as she navigated meeting others like her. The dash of romance thrown in for her was sweet and not overdone. I totally ship them.

Ezekiel might destroy me by the end of this series. Frankly, this may be the case for any of our main four (Lemon, Ezekiel, Cricket and Eve). There is heartbreak and disaster literally around every corner and I DON’T KNOW IF I’LL GET A HAPPY ENDING. Going in blind to the last book may hurt, but I’m also stoked for it. The reveals and action can only go up from here.

The pacing is on point and the way information is rolled out never feels like an info dump or not quite enough to go off of. We’re given direction as needed and I love the world-building around a defunct society. It’s got a level of creep, some radicals, and those just trying to make it through the day. I’ve been real hesitant to read any dystopian as of late, but this one is definitely a hit.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult sci-fi / dystopia
  • Language: very little light language (some cases of using funk as a bad word)
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: robots fighting, fire, magic, physical, swords, explosions, guns

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Book Review

Book Review: Onyx & Ivory (Rime Chronicles #1) by Mindee Arnett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 512 pages
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

FELT VERY TYPICAL YA FANTASY.

I haven’t had a chance to get to this review for a few days, and now I’m sitting here trying to think about everything that happened and I can barely remember. Uh oh.

This was a very typical young adult fantasy novel. Mostly unremarkable, but you still enjoy it. You just don’t LOVE it. That about sums up all of my feelings for this.

Things started off a bit slow and confusing. We dove head first into the story and I had a hard time adjusting to the magic system, world, politics, and relationships of everyone. What I was feeling was the second chance love story between Kate and Corwin. Was a bit rocky, and full of Corwin trying to show Kate how much she means to him. Though he made a mistake I wasn’t totally comfortable with *shrugs;* wasn’t a full deal breaker at least. They had some good banter, and a few touching moments with a solid ending. I’ll take it!

It took me awhile to figure out what the plot was. I didn’t know who was bad, what we were trying to stop, and where the main focus lied. I’m thankful that this all worked itself out. As I finished it, I definitely understood what was going on and think that this will make the second book infinitely better. There were some odd political discussions that seemed out of place. And also, the weird battle/trial thing between his brother for the Kingship? What is that?! This was random too and I know it still has to end in the second book, but I need more info. Because WHY.

I did finish this 500+ page saga, which means I didn’t hate it. It was just stagnant. I’ll keep an eye out for the second book and we’ll see if I get around to reading it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and almost love scene (a little descriptive)
  • Violence: battle, animal attacks, swords, guns, magic; not intensely gory/bloody

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Book Review

Book Review: A Kingdom of Exiles (Outcasts #1) by S.B. Nova

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 600 pages
Author: S.B. Nova
Publisher: Night Owl Publishing
Release Date: December 17th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The brightest of stars are always born on the darkest of nights.

Serena Smith is unusual.

Growing up in a backwoods village, her life is lonely and dull. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she’s gifted a magical heirloom only to be snatched by fae and condemned to a lifetime in chains.

Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena discovers a forbidden love, and meets fellow outcasts, each with their own dark secrets.

As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash, they find a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s unique gifts, can they survive long enough to build the flames of a revolution. Only together can they go to war …

DID SOMEONE SAY FAE?

Yes, I come running to a book when I hear that. And this was no different, and was a great read!

Oooo boy, finally finished this one. I read it through Amazon Prime so I didn’t pay attention to the page count, did you know this book is 600 pages? NEITHER DID I. Yet, somehow, I consistently found myself wanting to come back and read this. I would put it down to read a few chapters from another book and wouldn’t feel as invested because I wanted to dive into this story more. Yes it’s long, but it somehow feels like everything was a necessary piece of the puzzle.

I would desperately like to know who Serena’s mate is though y’all. WHO WHO WHO…who. There was kind of a roulette situation happening with multiple fae where I was convinced each time, oh this is her endgame, and then was thrown off that to someone else! I still have no inkling. The romance in this book is a bit all over the place. Her relationship (that’s supposed to be family based) seems way more than that. The one that was more romantic, didn’t have me really shipping them, AND I’m JUST LOST. If you can’t tell by my rambling sentences.

Serena is definitely a work in progress. Since this is only the first book, I am totally cool with not LOVING her character, but seeing where she can go. I wish she could do a little more for herself, yet I see that she needed to form all of the bonds because she was dealt a crappy hand in the human world. This allowed her to have friendships and people truly close to her.

I love the bit of squad goals we had with Serena’s pack. Frazer (LOVE HIM) needs to be my best friend. I would love him so! I love the team dynamics and the protectiveness that forms through the trials they go through at the military training camp.

The setting and world-building is a bit confusing at times. I really wasn’t grasping the view of the world until way deeper into the book (and a thorough read through of the map). I love maps, but feel like when I’m reading the book itself I shouldn’t have to keep checking back to confirm where I am. The story should be able to narrate that.

Some of the twists near the end had me stunned. I genuinely didn’t see them coming. I thought the lead up was great and can’t wait to get the villain on screen.

I also spent some time looking up information on the next book and stumbled upon the fact that this is supposed to be a four book series. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT THAT LONG.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, physical, skirmishes, arrows, poison, murder
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching, Ch. 2)

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Book Review

Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 528 pages
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

REID & LOU: NEW OTP.

In recent memory I can easily say that this was a book that actually lived up to the hype. I LOVED IT. Barely 50 pages in, I was hooked, and I wanted to savor the rest of this amazing story.

Loved this setting. Loved the writing. Love these characters.

Speaking of, REID y’all. I love how passionate he was (and rather stubborn too), but also very tender and had a big heart beneath it all. I liked the influence his religion played on all of his decisions and emotions. He stayed true to who he was, but also learned to be open and adapt to previously misleading information. He was SO CUTE and I adore him. His love scene with Lou was also unique for YA and I found it absolutely amazing and well done (and that’s all I will say on that to avoid spoilers, but you’ll understand if you’ve read it!).

Lou was a great MC too. I love how much she chooses love. Lou wanted more out of life than what she was handed and sought after those things and I applaud her for it. Her growth was immense and she learned a lot about herself too. It was so appealing to have both Reid and Lou see outside their boxes to learn and understand about one another.

Best friend alert: Ansel & Coco. OH MY GOODNESS. The side characters were fabulous! I loved this just as much as the MCs. They had a lot to offer and actually brought something to the table. Ansel was my sweet baby and I just want to love him forever okay? I beg the universe not to kill him off in the next book, I might shatter. HE WAS PERFECT. Coco was her own fiery beast that I would so be BFFs with. Easy to love, sneaky, loyal, yes yes yes. Beau was a great addition towards the end too. I’m very curious how he’ll play a part in book two.

Lots of action and intrigue in this book. The pacing kept me constantly intrigued. There was a steady flow of things happening, to slowing down a bit, and to not notice that this book was 500 pages is a stellar job all on it’s own. I enjoyed the villain immensely more than I even considered I might. They threw in some twists I didn’t see coming and were seriously, heinously evil. I will clap for that because I hate a wishy-washy bad guy.

BOOK TWO, I NEED YOU.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, blood magic, physical, knives, swords, poison, paralysis via drugs, torture, arrows

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Book Review

Book Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction +fantasy
Length: 352 pages
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push the earth and the otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve daily mysteries in New Fiddleham, New England—like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why the undead are appearing around town.

At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, Jenny Cavanaugh, begins to give way. But before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

The epic conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series features wry humor and a cast of unforgettable characters facing off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever.

READ EVERY LAST DANG PAGE OF THIS BOOK.

Or you might feel like throwing it across the room. Like me. Then I read it all. Then I got the ending I was demanding from my bookish soul.

This was a great finale! Definitely the best book of the series by far.

I loved watching all of the story lines come together. Seeing all of the characters align. It all was beautifully woven and closed the ending as it should be. I wasn’t left with questions or concerns. I closed the book at peace. That’s a good ending. There was even a double crossing betrayer that I had no idea was coming. It was a twist that added an edge.

ABIGAIL AND CHARLIE ARE SO DANG CUTE. Absolutely precious. This was the first time I wish they had some more screen time. I was smitten with Charlie and their interactions. They were a great, simple, no drama relationship that added the touch of romance to round out this series.

Jackaby and Abigail are once again a dynamic duo. Jenny became team member number three and I loved having her around more! The banter and dynamics between everyone always make me smile and really appreciate their friendships. I was so happy that Jackaby got the ending he deserved. It made a lot of sense and I figured it would have to move in that direction to bring closure.

This is one of those books that handles the addition of literally every magical creature from fairytales and folklore well. They’re SO MANY CREATURES. I love learning more about them and the way they each added their own touch.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction/fantasy/paranormal mystery
  • Language: one word (witch)
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, magic, swords, murder, animal attacks, vampire attacks, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: When the World Didn’t End: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult poetry
Length: 192 pages
Author: Caroline Kaufman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Expected Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Teen Instagram sensation and author of Light Filters In @poeticpoison returns with a second collection of short, powerful poems about love, forgiveness, self-discovery, and what it’s like living after a hard-fought battle with depression, in the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and the princess saves herself in this one.

Thank you to BookSparks and their Fall Reading Challenge Campaign for a gifted copy. All thoughts are my own!

WOW. I NEED TO READ MORE POETRY.

This made me realize that I’m really missing out on poetry books. I generally don’t pick them up. Not because I don’t like poetry, it’s just not what I first think of. Clearly, I need to add a few more into rotation.

As someone who personally struggles with depression, I felt a lot of these poems. I was able to connect with Kaufman’s powerful words and meanings. Words matter y’all.

“I am a book
with the pages all worn.

the cover is tearing,
the ink is fading,

but I swear I’m worth the read.”

This is a shorter review because the poetry book itself is less than 200 pages, but trust me, there is a lot of substance within those pages. I read it in one sitting because I was entranced by the vulnerability and rawness of her words.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult poetry
  • Language: a few words
  • Trigger warnings: There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book mentioning that some of the poems include themes of: mental illness, suicidal ideation, self-harm, disordered eating, and sexual assault

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